On Saturday, the UFC returns to London with UFC 286, and they’re bringing a big one for the English fans: Welterweight champion Leon Edwards puts his newly-won title on the line against the man he took it from, Kamaru Usman. On top of that, the co-main event features a potential “Fight of the Year” with Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev.
As always, all odds are courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Leon Edwards, +205
I don’t feel at all confident about this bet, but here we are.
Seven months ago, Edwards rematched Usman and was, to put it bluntly, getting whooped. The commentary team was debating whether Edwards’ heart was still in it, and Din Thomas flat out said Edwards was “broken.” Then he showed everyone with the head kick heard round the world, a literal last-minute Hail Mary that actually worked. Now they’re fighting again, under totally different circumstances, and most people seem to think Usman will reclaim his title. Hell, I’m one of them. But gambling and prognostication are two very different things, and in this instance, I believe the value lies on Edwards.
In immediate rematches where the challenger won the belt, they are 11-3 defending their prize. That isn’t an enormous sample size, but it is a pretty glaring statistic, and there’s a reason for it: being a long-reigning champion is nearly impossible. Only 13 fighters in UFC history have defended a title five times or more, and in nearly every instance of a long-reigning champion losing, they fail to reclaim the belt, because the losses come about as a result of slipping up, getting older, and challengers having too much information. Edwards didn’t luck his way into that head kick, it came because Usman had shown a tendency and Edwards attacked it. That remains true for this fight, and now Usman is a little older, a little more worn down, and coming off a brutal KO loss.
Maybe Usman looks the same as always and reclaims the title. It wouldn’t be shocking. But laying money on him at these odds isn’t smart, and history suggests that getting Edwards at +205 is a gift.
Gunnar Nelson by Submission, +120
This is one of the easiest bets on the card. Nelson is a exceptional grappler and Bryan Barberena isn’t. Moreover, Barberena is a bad defensive wrestler. In his last six fights, Barberena has given up 26 takedowns! And that’s including his fight against Robbie Lawler where neither man shot. Nelson is going to get this to the floor and then run “Bam Bam” right out of the cage.
Casey O’Neill by Decision, +120
Erin Blanchfield is the future of the women’s flyweight division, but the woman she will probably have to fight a couple of times is Casey O’Neill. O’Neill is 9-0 and only 25-years-old, and this fight is very clearly a setup fight for her to move into the Top-10 of the division, where she can mount a title run. I think that’s very likely to happen as Maia is a solid fighter in all areas but lacks to dynamic offense to truly threaten O’Neill, and simply cannot keep pace with her output on the feet. That being said, Maia has not been finished since 2012, so this should end up as a pretty clear decision win for O’Neill.
Parlay of the Week
Marvin Vettori/Roman Dolidze Over 1.5 Rounds, -400
Roman Dolidze has been on a tear of late, scoring finishes in his previous three bouts, but he’s faced with a major problem in this one: Marvin Vettori is un-killable. Vettori has never been stopped in his entire career, despite facing a pretty good strength of schedule. On top of that, since joining the UFC in 2016, Vettori has gone to a decision in 11 of his 13 bouts, including his previous five. The man is the exact antithesis of “Get Or Get Got.” This fight is extremely likely to go to a decision, and certainly to go past 7 minutes and 30 seconds.
Jack Shore, -500
For the prelim main event, Jack Shore makes his UFC featherweight debut, taking on Makwan Amirkhani and this bout feels all too simple to predict. Amirkhani is a curious blend of a low-output fighter who also fades badly in fights. Amirkhani may be the superior grappler of the two, but it’s unlikely he can finish Shore early as Shore is very durable, and Shore should take over with volume and pace as the fight wears on.
Muhammad Mokaev, -800
Still only 22-years-old, Mokaev is one of the very best prospects in all of MMA. With an extensive amateur background, the only weakness Mokaev has shown in his game has been the lack of a killer instinct, favoring positional control over damage. Filho is a good enough fighter with some skill on the ground in his own right, but the gulf in athleticism here is stark. Mokaev should turn in another dominant performance.
Joanne Wood/Luana Carolina Over 2.5 Rounds, -335
Though Wood has been finished three times over the past three years, it’s important to note that all of them came by way of submission, something Carolina is not a realistic threat to pull off. Instead, in six of Wood’s seven UFC wins, the Scottish fighter has gone to the judges scorecards. Likewise, all four of Carolina’s UFC wins have come by decision, so we can reasonably expect this one to go long.
Parlay these four bets together for +119 odds.
Long Shot of the Week
Rafael Fiziev to Win by KO/TKO/DQ in Round 3, +1000
The consensus heading into the co-main event appears to be that Fiziev is the superior striker and that Justin Gaethje might have too many miles on him. It’s hard to argue with either point, but I’m not entirely ready to write off Gaethje just yet. “The Highlight” is tougher than a two-dollar steak, and over the course of his career one thing we can conclusively say about Gaethje is you have to either submit him, or kill him to get him out of there. Fiziev isn’t going to submit Gaethje so I think we’re in for another Gaethje classic: blood, guts, and hellfire, until his body simply cannot take any more. I’m willing to take a long shot on Gaethje showing the heart he’s famous for and making it at least to the start of the third round.
FINALLY. UFC Las Vegas gave us what feels like our first winning week in a lifetime. Nailed a couple of the underdog selections and the parlay. A lot more chalk on deck this week, but hopefully we can be just as successful and get some momentum going.
Until next week, enjoy the fights, good luck, and gamble responsibly!
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